(Photo: Gosia Wozniacka AP)
The fabulous, unforgiving waters of California's Yosemite National Park have claimed their first victim of 2013, park officials said Monday.
No search teams were sent out Monday to find Aleh Kalman, 19, who was swept along the turbulent Merced River and down a spectacular, 594-foot waterfall on Saturday, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
"We believe a fall from the top of that waterfall is not survivable," Cobb said. "We have moved to limited, continuous searching."
That means a team will search the area every few days or when the water level drops to where more of the riverbank is exposed, she said.
The park, 200 miles east of San Francisco and covering almost 1,200 square miles, is famed for its breathtaking waterfalls and clear, rushing waters. But there is also danger -- four people drowned in the park last year; seven in 2011.
Kalman, a Sacramento man visiting the park with a church group, had been hiking Saturday afternoon along the Mist Trail when he went swimming in the river about 150 feet upstream from the Nevada Fall, Cobb said.
She said witnesses saw Kalman attempt to swim back to the riverbank from a rock in the middle of the river when the current swept him downstream to the waterfall.
Ground teams aided by a California Highway Patrol helicopter and three dog teams immediately were dispatched to the area. Search efforts continued throughout the evening and picked up again Sunday.
The river is "swift and powerful" this time of year, Cobb said, with water temperature in the low 50s.
Cobb said swimming in the river is not banned, but said visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution around all water in the park. Although the park received only 50% of normal snow pack, rivers within the park continue to run at high levels this time of the year. Additionally, the water remains extremely cold and will be throughout the year.
Last month, a Minnesota man fell to his death from a cliff near a waterfall in the park. The body of Kenneth Stensby, 73, was found at the base of the 317-foot Vernal Fall.
In 2012, the drowning victims included Jacob Adams, 6, and his brother Andy, 10, who fell into Merced River rapids.